While a BlackBerry-branded device wasn’t my first phone, technically, nor was it even my first smartphone, it’s definitely the first handset to actually leave an impression. If you owned one of those older models (as I age myself here), then you were familiar with the track wheel. This was a wheel on the side of the phone, which would allow you to quickly scroll through the variety of lists you’d run into every day you used your phone.
I know this sounds crazy, but that track wheel was amazing.
Yes, it served its purpose of getting from the top of a screen to the bottom, whether it was in the settings or even in a seemingly unending flood of emails. But it was also pretty great for playing the old-school version of Brick Breaker. Touchscreens are great and all, but that track wheel will go down in history as probably the best way to control a small paddle on a small screen with low resolution as you try to break digital bricks.
We were so fancy back then!
I wasn’t necessarily overtly loyal to BlackBerry back then. I was selling phones at the time I was using that as my daily driver and I found myself going through quite a few of them on a semi-regular basis. Trying out Nokia devices with full physical keyboards and similar form factors as BlackBerry. And we can’t forget about all the sliders and spinners out there. Smartphone design was super unique back then, so it was hard to turn down trying the next one coming down the pipe.
However, all that being said, I loved BlackBerry. That physical keyboard, while copied by several different manufacturers, was simply the best. And considering touchscreens were terrible back then, so typing on them wasn’t a worthwhile proposition. So it makes sense that BlackBerry basically made its name for that keyboard, and hung onto that lineage when the BlackBerry OS sunk into the deeps of history and the company decided to adopt Android as its go-to mobile operating system.
We’re a few years into this experiment now, seeing a BlackBerry logo on an Android device, and it certainly doesn’t feel like the brand has been taken to a whole new level. Even Nokia, which also adopted Android not too long ago, feels a bit more dominant thanks to the wide range of devices out there, perfect for either emerging or established markets.
Meanwhile, BlackBerry’s other major selling point is security. Which is obviously a huge thing these days, but when customers are looking for their next smartphone is security and a physical keyboard really what they are looking for? Maybe not.
I used to consider BlackBerry the underdog taking on Android and iOS, and I used to root for them, too. I was even using a BlackBerry Classic Bold 9900 at its launch and loved every minute of it. Eventually I missed the apps I couldn’t get on BlackBerry’s OS, and even the apps I could get on there weren’t that great in comparison to Android or iOS. So while I loved the hardware, it just wasn’t what I could stick with.
But that’s not an issue anymore, thanks to the adoption of Android! So folks who really do want that physical keyboard and all of the apps they expect to see have an option to go with. BlackBerry hasn’t necessarily made huge headlines by offering up devices with price tags that seemed attractive right out of the gate, so that may have something to do with the devices not flying off the shelves, too.
But, I can’t help but be curious if you are using one of the BlackBerry-branded Android handsets, and, if so, are you happy with the experience so far and which model do you have? Do you plan on sticking with BlackBerry in the future, or do you already have your sights set on something else? Let me know!